Indonesian hardline Muslim cleric arrested


Jakarta : Indonesian police Monday arrested Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the alleged spiritual leader of terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, his lawyer and police officials said.

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Lawyer Achmad Michdan said the elderly cleric was arrested by the anti-terror unit Monday morning in the West Java district of Ciamis.

Michdan said Ba’asyir, 72, was arrested en route to Solo in central Java, after giving lectures in Tasikmalaya, West Java. He said he was unsure what the charges were.

Ito Sumardi, national police chief of detectives, said Ba’asyir was detained on “strong evidence and a solid legal basis”. But he declined to elaborate or say whether formal charges had been filed.

“The arrest has been made following a long investigation process,” Sumardi said.

Ba’asyir told reporters upon his arrival at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta that the US government ordered his arrest.

“This (arrest) is American engineering,” Ba’asyir said.

In 2006, Ba’asyir was released from Jakarta’s Cipinang prison after completing a 26-month sentence for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign visitors.

The Supreme Court later overturned the lower court’s conviction, ruling that Ba’asyir did not play any role in the bombings.

Ba’asyir has consistently denied involvement in terrorism and says he is being victimised because he campaigns for strict Islamic law in Indonesia, the world’s most-populous Muslim nation.

He was first arrested one week after the Bali bombings Oct 12, 2002. A trial court ruled there was not enough evidence to prove Ba’asyir was a leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, but it sentenced him to 18 months for immigration offences.

Police arrested him again in April 2004, immediately after his release from jail, and charged him under a new anti-terrorism law.